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Goodbye To The UK’s Chemical Industry

August 21, 2013

By Paul Homewood




The Tyndall Centre published a report on the UK’s chemical industry back in May. For those who don’t know, the Tyndall Centre are a taxpayer funded body set up to:-


research, assess and communicate from a distinct trans-disciplinary perspective, the options to mitigate, and the necessities to adapt to, climate change, and to integrate these into the global, UK and local contexts of sustainable development.


The chemical industry, of course, is an energy intensive one, so they cannot escape the draconian cutbacks in CO2 emissions demanded by the Climate Change Act. What, then, do the Tyndall Centre have to say?


They begin by acknowledging both the importance of the industry to the UK economy, and the competitive pressures it faces. While there is little evidence that climate policy (which of course has barely kicked in yet) has contributed to offshoring so far , they accept that global greenhouse gas emissions may increase as a result. They are also concerned that, in future, the UK’s climate change targets could lead to much greater migration.






They also acknowledge that, although the industry’s GHG emissions have dropped by 70% since 1970, this has largely been the result of plant closures and relocation. As they point out

“overall emissions associated with the consumption of chemical-derived goods are likely to be increasing”



At this stage you would have thought that the Tyndall Centre would use a bit of common sense, and argue for a level playing field and the retention of the industry within the UK. After all, they are supposed to be concerned with global sustainable development, not just national. But not a bit of it.

They go on. Regardless of the impact, the industry must obey orders and reduce its emissions, even though this is unlikely to be achieved by “incremental or efficiency improvements”.




So how are these radical changes to be achieved? Significant changes and high levels of capital investment, but as they point out, there are few incentives for this. What business would make such massive investments when its competitors were not forced to?




They go on to look at a few options, but they are all, it seems, either uneconomic or technically infeasible, or both.




By this stage, you would imagine that industry are becoming rather concerned. And you would be right.




And what answers do the Tyndall Centre have for this conundrum? Still wedded to the idea that we can reduce our emissions by 80% before 2050, their only suggestion is that we reduce emissions by even more in other sectors.




I suppose we should at least congratulate the Tyndall Centre on alerting us about the dangers to the chemical industry, in particular, and the UK economy, in general, of the Climate Change Act. Most politicians refuse to face up to facts like this, and instead continually repeat mindless soundbites about green jobs and a low carbon economy.

But would it not have been better if they had used a bit of common sense and accepted that shutting down the UK chemical industry will do nothing to reduce global emissions?



According to the Chemical Industries Association, the industry

  1. Contributes £75 million every day to the UK economy spends over £5 billion each year on research and development
  2. Invests almost £2 billion a year in capital expenditure
  3. Generates a trade surplus of £5 billion every year
  4. Provides employment for over half a million people in well-paid jobs
  5. And is the nation’s number one manufacturing exporter.

All of this will be put at risk because of the mindless pursuit of the holy grail of decarbonisation.

Remember this when politicians babble on about creating “green jobs”.

  1. mkelly permalink
    August 21, 2013 6:15 pm

    The destruction of molecular bonds requires energy. The forcing together of atoms to form molecules requires energy. Without access to lots of inexpensive energy (high grade) the chemical industry will leave. Some left the US and went to the Arab states for access to nat gas.

  2. mitigatedsceptic permalink
    August 21, 2013 6:50 pm

    Should we really expect ‘common sense’ in an institution that practices ‘post-normal’ science? We have not appreciated the full significance of this. PNS is a vehicle for the fulfilment of personal ambitions, nothing like that old-fashionewd science that seeks empirical evidence for her theses. I am constantly amazed that public money is poured into the hands of people such as these.

  3. Streetcred permalink
    August 22, 2013 1:20 am

    The question is, what to do with academic knuckleheads ? How about some work experience pushing a borrow about a construction site ? They’re clearly not suitable for any trainee management positions.

  4. catweazle666 permalink
    August 22, 2013 9:12 pm

    Well, the chemical industry makes chemicals, right?

    And as every Environmentalist knows, ALL chemicals are BAD and are manufactured purely so evil Capitalist Right wingers can poison Mother Earth!

    So close it down quick, and ban chemicals altogether!

    • Radical Rodent permalink
      August 23, 2013 10:00 am

      Careful. While most here can take that as it was meant, there will be a lot of people who would take it as Gospel.

      • catweazle666 permalink
        August 23, 2013 3:14 pm

        We can only hope that nobody tells them about hydroxylic acid!

  5. Brian H permalink
    August 23, 2013 8:15 am

    The Tyndall Center is a fascinating demonstration of how cognitive dissonance works on the institutional level. If you can stomach reading its maundering blather as it attempts to rationalize the patently irrational. Personally, I can’t.

    • mkelly permalink
      August 23, 2013 1:58 pm

      The Eskimo Nebula Brian?


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